Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin since it dissolves in water and leaves the body through the urine. Like the other B vitamins, vitamin B12 is necessary for the nervous system’s maintenance, red blood cell formation, and protein metabolism. Therefore, having a vitamin B12 deficiency can negatively impact health.
The human body does produce Vitamin B12. However, the process is not very effective. The specialised bacteria that produce vitamin B12 in humans grow in the lower part of the digestive system. The contradiction lies in the fact that B12 can only be absorbed through the (upper part) small intestine. Therefore, including foods high in vitamin B12 in everyone’s daily diet is crucial.
What Makes Vitamin B12 Essential?
Vitamin B12, commonly known as cobalamin, is the generic term for a group of water-soluble compounds in the B-vitamin family. Vitamin B12 is necessary for crucial biological operations such as DNA synthesis. The synthesis of red blood cells and the formation of myelin, the protective fatty coating surrounding and encasing the nerves, depend on vitamin B12.
Along with folate, vitamin B12 performs various tasks, including the breakdown of homocysteine. It is an excess amino acid that, in high levels, raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for numerous vital biological activities. The body needs a consistent flow of vitamin B12 to carry out essential functions like maintaining the health of nerve tissue, brain function, red blood cells, and overall health.
Vitamin B12 Daily Recommended Intake
For vitamin B12, the recommended daily intake amount (RDA) is 2.4 micrograms. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) rises to 2.6 micrograms during pregnancy and 2.8 micrograms per day during nursing. Currently, there are no known harmful effects of vitamin B12. That is because the body can eliminate any extra water-soluble vitamins through urination.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin B12 deficiency is rare, but the following symptoms can occur:
Psychosis, mania, and dementia
Poor cognitive performance
Weakness and neurological problems
Increased risk for neural tube defects
Benefits of Consuming Vitamin B12-Rich Foods
The following are some health benefits of vitamin B12:
Lowers the Risk of Macular Degeneration
Deficiency of vitamin B12 may worsen age-related macular degeneration. Homocysteine levels above a particular point can also raise the risk. However, supplementing the diet with vitamin B12 can lower homocysteine levels and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Vitamin B12 Promotes Bone Health and Prevents Osteoporosis
A lack of vitamin B12 might damage the bones. People who are vitamin B12 deficient have lower than average bone mineral density. Over time, the bones may become brittle and unstable due to decreased mineral density. Osteoporosis risk consequently rises. Therefore, intake of sufficient vitamin B12 lowers the risk of osteoporosis and poor bone health.
Vitamin B12’s Role in Red Blood Cell Production and Anaemia Prevention
Your body needs vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells. A lack of vitamin B12 impairs the synthesis of red blood cells and stops them from developing. Moreover, a vitamin B12 shortage might result in megaloblastic anaemia by making red blood cells enlarged and oval. Healthy red blood cells, on the other hand, are small and spherical.
Vitamin B12 Protects Against Severe Birth Defects
Sufficient quantities of vitamin B12 are necessary for a safe pregnancy. An embryo’s brain and nervous system depend on the mother for adequate amounts of vitamin B12. Thus, high vitamin B12 intake during the first trimester of pregnancy reduces the risk of malformations at birth, like neural tube abnormalities. Moreover, a miscarriage or premature delivery may arise from the mother’s deficiency of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 May Benefit the Brain by Halting the Deterioration of Neurons
B1, B6, and B12 are neurotropic vitamins that improve neurological functions and prevent the malfunctioning of these pathways. Vitamin B12 promotes myelin regeneration, which is extremely helpful in sensory and motor function recovery after brain injury.
Incorporating vitamin B12-rich foods into your diet offers a range of health benefits. It can lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration and improve bone health, reducing the chances of osteoporosis. Vitamin B12 is crucial in red blood cell production, preventing anaemia. During pregnancy, it safeguards against severe congenital disabilities, and for brain health, it helps protect neurons from deterioration. Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin B12 can contribute to overall well-being, making it an essential nutrient to include in your daily diet.
Sources of Vitamin B12: What to Eat for Vitamin B12
Humans and animals cannot produce vitamin B12 on their own. Bacteria, particularly those found in the digestive tracts of animals, are responsible for its synthesis. Some natural sources of vitamin B12 include:
Meat: Beef, hog, lamb, and game meats.
Poultry: Chicken and turkey.
Seafood: Shellfish (clams, mussels, and oysters) and fish (salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines) are excellent B12 sources.
Dairy Products: Vitamin B12 is in milk, yoghurt, and cheese. But depending on the product and how it’s processed, the content could change.
Eggs: Eggs are rich in vitamin B12, particularly the yolks.
Foods Fortified With B12
Many plant-based foods fortified with B12 qualify as vegan and vegetarian-friendly. Plant-based milk (such as almond or soy milk), breakfast cereals, and animal alternatives are common foods fortified with vitamins.
Vegetarians and vegans frequently use nutritional yeast as a cheese or flavour substitute. When fortified, it becomes a good source of vitamin B12.
Specific species of bacteria can produce vitamin B12, especially during the fermentation of foods like miso, tempeh, and some varieties of plant-based yoghurt. However, the quantity might vary, and not all fermented foods have significant vitamin B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 is abundant in organ meats like kidney and liver.
Foods derived from animals, such as liver, red meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products, naturally contain vitamin B12. One can also pick B12-fortified plant-based foods such as nutritional yeast, non-dairy milk, and cereals.
10 High-Vitamin B12 Foods to Include
Little, chewy shellfish called clams have exceptionally high vitamin B12 concentrations and are a lean source of protein. Clams have 11.3 µg of vitamin B12 per 100g, making them a good choice. It’s interesting to note that boiling clams increases the amount of vitamin B12.
Sardines are small saltwater fish with fragile bones. Fresh ones are healthier but are typically available as canned in liquids like water, oil, or sauce. Sardines are exceptionally nutrient-dense since they are high in almost all nutrients. Drained sardines are suitable for fulfilling the necessary consumption of vitamin B12, as one 100 g serving has 8.94 µg of the vitamin.
3. Fortified Cereals
Fortified vitamin B12 is manufactured synthetically rather than from animal sources. It may be suitable for vegetarians and vegans. For example, one study found that participants’ levels of vitamin B12 improved significantly when they had 1 cup (240 mL) of fortified cereal daily that included 4.8 mcg of the vitamin for 14 weeks.
To boost the daily consumption of vitamin B12, consume fortified cereal. However, select a variety high in whole grains or fibre and low in added sugar.
Tuna is a popular fish high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, among other nutrients. High levels of vitamin B12 are present in it, particularly in the muscles directly under the skin.
A 100 g serving of cooked tuna has 10.9 µg of vitamin B12, which is adequate to meet the daily requirements. Vitamins A and B3, phosphorus, selenium, and lean protein are all in reasonable amounts in this serving size. Additionally, canned tuna has a good amount of vitamin B12. 100 g of light tuna in water (canned) has 1.17µg of vitamin B12.
Trout is a freshwater fish species and an excellent B vitamins, healthy fats, and protein source. A 100 g portion of trout fillet provides 7.79 µg of vitamin B12. Additionally, minerals, including phosphorus, selenium, and manganese, are abundant in trout.
6. Milk and Milk Products
Milk, yoghurt, and cheese are good protein sources with several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12. A 100 g serving of whole milk provides 0.45 µg of vitamin B12. Another excellent source of vitamin B12 is cheese. A 100 g large piece of Swiss cheese has around 3.02 µg of vitamin B12. One can get calcium, vitamin D and B12, and good bacteria from a daily cup of yoghurt.
7. Fortified Non-Dairy Milk
Non-dairy milk is gaining popularity among individuals seeking a plant-based, high-nutrient alternative to dairy milk. Although vitamin B12 content in soy, almond, and rice milk is not naturally high, these kinds of milk are typically fortified, making them a great source of the vitamin. One such is unsweetened soy milk, which has 0.39 µg of vitamin B12 per 100 grams, compared to 1.33 µg in sweetened soy milk.
8. Animal Liver
The liver is one of the best places to get vitamin B12. It is also a very healthy choice because it has a good amount of iron. Lamb’s liver contains 85.7µg of vitamin B12 per 100 grams. It also has very high levels of vitamins A and B2, copper, and selenium. However, one should watch out for any saturated fats in the dish.
Eggs can be an excellent breakfast choice rich in B vitamins, particularly B2 and B12. They also include complete protein. One hundred grams of eggs provide around 1.11 µg of vitamin B12, approximately 46% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B12, and 39% for vitamin B2.
Vitamin B12 levels in egg yolks are higher than in egg whites and are easier to absorb. As a result, eating whole eggs as opposed to whites is healthier.
While vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal-based foods, spinach is a notable exception among vegetables. It contains a small but significant amount of vitamin B12, making it a valuable addition to the diet for vegetarians and vegans. A 100g serving of cooked spinach offers approximately 0.9 µg of vitamin B12. Remember that the body’s ability to absorb B12 from plant-based sources like spinach may be limited, so it’s essential to include a variety of B12-rich foods in your diet for optimal intake.
Including spinach in salads, smoothies, or cooked dishes can provide some vitamin B12 while delivering other essential nutrients and promoting overall health.
Incorporating vitamin B12-rich foods into your diet is essential for overall health. From the marine delights of clams and sardines to the convenience of fortified cereals, these options can help you meet your daily vitamin B12 needs. Don’t forget the nutrient-packed tuna and trout, along with dairy and non-dairy sources like milk, cheese, and fortified plant-based milk. For a taste of indulgence, consider animal liver and eggs, which not only provide vitamin B12 but other valuable nutrients, too. Even spinach, though not a primary source, offers a small yet significant amount of vitamin B12 for vegetarians and vegans. Remember, a well-rounded diet with these foods can help you maintain optimal vitamin B12 intake and overall well-being.
How to Increase Vitamin B12?
Increasing your vitamin B12 intake is essential, especially for vegetarians and vegans with limited dietary sources of this vital nutrient. Here are some practical tips to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet:
Incorporate B12-Rich Foods Regularly: To meet your vitamin B12 requirements, include foods like clams, sardines, trout, and animal liver in your meals regularly. These are among the richest sources of vitamin B12.
Opt for Fortified Plant-Based Alternatives: If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, fortified plant-based milk like soy, almond, or rice milk can be excellent sources of vitamin B12. These products are enriched with synthetic B12, making them suitable options for those who don’t consume animal products.
Don’t Overlook Eggs: Eggs, particularly the yolks, are rich in vitamin B12 and are easier for your body to absorb compared to egg whites. Include eggs in your diet as a versatile and nutritious addition.
Embrace Leafy Greens: While not a primary source, leafy greens like spinach contain a modest amount of vitamin B12. Incorporating these vegetables into your diet can provide a small but valuable B12 boost, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Choose Fortified Cereals: Fortified cereals are an excellent choice for individuals seeking plant-based sources of vitamin B12. They can contribute significantly to your daily B12 intake. Ensure you select cereals high in whole grains or fibre and low in added sugar.
Optimise Cooking Methods: Be mindful of your cooking techniques. For example, boiling clams can increase their vitamin B12 content. Understanding how different cooking methods affect B12 levels in foods can help you maximise your intake.
Pair with Vitamin C: Enhance vitamin B12 absorption by consuming foods rich in vitamin C alongside your B12 sources. Combining these nutrients can improve absorption efficiency. Consider enjoying a vitamin C-rich orange smoothie with your fortified cereal or adding bell peppers to dishes containing B12-rich foods.
Diversify Your Diet: Variety ensures you receive a broad spectrum of nutrients, including vitamin B12. A diverse diet not only helps you meet your B12 needs but also supports overall health and well-being.
Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin B12 is crucial, especially for vegetarians and vegans. To increase your B12 levels, regularly include rich sources like clams, sardines, trout, and animal liver in your diet. Opt for fortified plant-based milk and cereals, and don’t overlook eggs for B12. While leafy greens like spinach contain some B12, they should complement primary sources. Consider cooking techniques that enhance B12 content and pair B12-rich foods with vitamin C sources to improve absorption. Diversify your diet for a well-rounded nutritional profile, promoting overall health while meeting your B12 needs.
The most commonly observed reason for B12 absorption problems are caffeine and alcohol.
Caffeine raises the excretion of B12 and other B vitamins. Coffee consumers have increased homocysteine levels, which is a proxy sign for B12 (and folate) deficiency, according to studies. Along with this, alcohol consumption also lowers B12 levels. Over an 8-week period, consuming 1.5-3 drinks reduced serum B12 levels by roughly 5%.
Many drugs reduce B12 levels by interfering with B12 absorption. Acid-blocking and lowering drugs such as prilosec (omeprazole), ranitidine, zantac, pepcid, nexium, and others should be avoided. Because acid production is reduced, B12 is not mobilised from food, resulting in poorer absorption.
Obtaining enough vitamin B12 from a balanced diet that includes foods derived from animals or fortified foods is crucial for general health. Proper dietary intervention and supplementation may address B12 insufficiency, and many of these symptoms can be avoided or reversed with early management. It’s essential to treat and manage the underlying cause of the deficit, which may include dietary decisions, problems with absorption, or other disorders.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is vitamin B12?
A: Among the water-soluble vitamins is vitamin B12. It is one of the most significant and most complex vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are more easily absorbed and utilised by the body because they dissolve in water.
Q: Why is vitamin B12 important for the body?
A: Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that aids in forming DNA and maintaining the health of the blood and nerve cells. Megaloblastic anaemia, a blood disorder that causes fatigue and weakness, is another illness that vitamin B12 helps avoid. It is necessary for a healthy metabolism and the body’s overall operation.
Q: What are the recommended daily allowances of vitamin B12?
A: For vitamin B12, the recommended daily amount (RDA) is 2.4 micrograms. It could change based on the individual’s needs and state of health.
Q: Which foods are rich in vitamin B12?
A: Clams, tuna, salmon, fortified cereals, cheese, yoghurt, beef, pork, eggs, and many more animal-based foods are high in vitamin B12.
Q: Can a deficiency in vitamin B12 lead to health problems?
A: Yes, a vitamin B12 shortage could lead to several health problems, such as anaemia, neurological disorders, and cognitive impairment.
Q: How can vitamin B12 benefit vegetarians and vegans?
A: Since animal-based foods are the primary source of vitamin B12, it might be difficult for vegetarians and vegans to consume enough. Vegetarians can get their recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 from various sources, including fortified foods, supplements, and plant-based diets.
Q: Are there any potential side effects of consuming too much vitamin B12?
A: This necessary vitamin is generally considered safe at high doses since the body can quickly excrete it through urine. Most people obtain adequate B12 from their diet alone, but needlessly taking supplements can have side effects.
Q: What is the relationship between vitamin B12 and anaemia?
A: Megaloblastic anaemia, sometimes referred to as pernicious anaemia, is a kind of anaemia that can result from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is essential for RBC production. Therefore, one must maintain a healthy amount of vitamin B12 to prevent anaemia.
Q: Can vitamin B12 help with nerve health and neurological function?
A: The nervous system depends on vitamin B12, especially regarding myelin production, nerve metabolism, and neuronal regeneration.
Q: Is vitamin B12 supplementation necessary for everyone?
A: Not everyone needs to take vitamin B12 supplements, but some people at risk of not getting enough or with certain medical conditions may benefit. The demand for vitamin B12 supplements varies depending on age, medical problems, dietary preferences, and overall health.
Q: How is vitamin B12 absorbed in the body?
A: The body absorbs vitamin B12 in two stages from diet. The stomach’s hydrochloric acid first releases vitamin B12 from the protein to which it is bound. Second, the body absorbs the released vitamin B12 and the intrinsic factor, a protein the stomach produces.
Q: Can certain medical conditions affect vitamin B12 absorption or utilisation?
A: People suffering from small intestinal and stomach illnesses, like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, might be unable to absorb enough vitamin B12 from their diet.
Q: What are some early signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency?
A: Weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, dyspnea, pale complexion, neurological issues such as tingling or numbness, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking are all signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Q: How can you increase your vitamin B12 intake if you have dietary restrictions or allergies?
A: It might be difficult, but possible, to increase your vitamin B12 consumption when one has dietary limitations or allergies. It is best to consume fortified foods or take supplements.
Q: Are there any cooking or preparation methods that help retain vitamin B12 in foods?
A: Cooking techniques, including stir-frying, roasting, grilling, roasting, steaming, or microwaving, typically retain more vitamins and other nutrients.